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As Austin Voth hits the injured list, Dave Martinez pushes for answers on foreign substances

Nationals pitcher Austin Voth gets helped back to the dugout after being hit in the face by a pitch Sunday in Philadelphia. (Chris Szagola/AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Dave Martinez couldn’t put a timetable on when and how Austin Voth will return from having his nose fractured by a 90-mph fastball Sunday. Either that or Martinez, the Washington Nationals’ manager, kept to his code of being publicly vague about injury recovery. But what he could say is Voth’s broken nose is different from Max Scherzer’s in June 2019.

Scherzer broke his while attempting a bunt in batting practice, pitched the next night and didn’t miss a turn in the rotation. Voth underwent surgery to repair multiple fractures, Martinez said, and was placed on the 10-day injured list Tuesday, with Ryne Harper taking his place on the roster. At a minimum, Voth, a right-handed pitcher, can’t rejoin the Nationals until June 17. Yet Martinez’s answers made it seem like a longer process.

“He’s doing fine. We just have to get the swelling down,” Martinez said before the Nationals faced the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. “He’s going to be out for some time — until we can get the swelling [down] and get his eyes back open. Then we’ll go from there.”

On Monday night, Voth shared an Instagram post from his bed at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. He stayed there after Vince Velasquez’s 90-mph fastball struck him on the left side of the face Sunday afternoon. The ball clipped Voth’s helmet before colliding with his cheek, perhaps softening the damage. But the Instagram photo showed his left eye was swollen shut.

Voth, 28, has made 18 relief appearances and one start for the Nationals this season. The start came Sunday, because the Nationals needed a handful of relievers to fill in for the injured Stephen Strasburg. Voth earned an at-bat because he retired the first six batters he faced. Then Velasquez lost control, hit Victor Robles with a high-and-tight slider and left Voth bleeding into the dirt.

After the game, Martinez used the moment to reinforce his stance on MLB’s crackdown on foreign substances. It has been a hot-button topic this season, especially with recent reports that MLB is planning to more rigidly enforce rules for what pitchers can and can’t put on their fingers and the baseball. Some believe foreign substances are allowing pitchers to reach spin rates that are too high, making them even more difficult to hit. But others, including Martinez, feel some level of sticky substance is needed to control pitches, some of which travel toward the plate at 98, 99 or 100 mph.

F.P. Santangelo is off the air. The Nats and MASN are tight-lipped. And a path forward is unknown.

“I hate to bring it up, but you’ll see more of that if we keep messing around with the stuff about the balls,” Martinez said Sunday, referring to the scary scene with Voth. “I understand them trying to clean some stuff up. But it’s hot, it’s slippery, it’s sweaty. I know Velasquez didn’t throw in there intentionally, but I’m afraid that if we don’t come up with something unified for everybody, you’ll see a lot more of that. And that’s a scary feeling.”

Asked Tuesday whether he had thought any more about the situation, Martinez doubled down.

“MLB is definitely looking into different options, and they have to. They’re going to do their homework and try to get some kind of conclusion on this,” he said. “I’m just afraid if we get completely away with having them [use] nothing, that you’ll see more of that. Because as pitchers, we all know, hey, pitching inside is part of the game, you know? It really is. If you can’t pitch to both sides of the plate, it’s going to be tough to get consistent outs here — it really is.

“I know he didn’t do it intentionally. The ball just got away from him.”

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